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Regal Entertainment Forecasts Strong Environment for Theater Acquisitions

Regal Entertainment Group is a buyer in a market that could soon be filled with sellers, the theater chain’s top execs said Thursday at the Gabelli Movie & Entertainment Conference.

The box office this year is expected to be down from last year, as 2014’s slate lacks an “Avengers,” Pixar or James Bond film, Regal CEO Amy Miles and chief financial officer David Ownby noted. There is also pressure on exhibitors to offer premium options, such as Imax theaters or luxury seating.

The prospect of lower profits and increased investment could foster an environment for “people to come off the bench and think about selling their circuits,” Ownby said.

Miles noted that “accretive acquisitions have been a key strategy” for the company and will continue to be over the next 12 to 36 months.

At the same time, Regal will continue to invest in enhancing and expanding its current network. Miles said the country’s largest theater chain will build five to 10 theaters annually. It will have 25 sites with big recliner chairs this year and expects to increase the number of large screen formats it houses from 67 screens to 200.

Miles said the guiding principle for Regal is “how can we make an investment that can enhance our free cash flow.” And cash on a balance sheet can make a buyer feel bold, she said.

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